Prof Hugo moots more academic joint appointments

Prof Hugo moots more academic joint appointments

Published on 27 March 2013

Professor Graeme Hugo, Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, has called for new approaches to be considered to facilitate development-friendly models of migration for academic staff, in order to steady the imbalance of highly-skilled academics leaving developing countries for posts in countries like Australia.

Professor Hugo made these comments in his ACU Perspectives speech on 'International Migration and Higher Education in Australia', remarking that, whilst a lot of emphasis is placed on the international movement of students, it is the movement of academics that could have the greater impact on higher education in the years to come.

Between 1993 and 2012, 39,000 academics emigrated to Australia, whereas 21,700 left. Whilst prima facie this may appear to be good news for Australia, Professor Hugo asserted that the quality rather than the quantity of incoming academics required greater analysis.

'The government attitude would be to look at [these statistics] and say this is fantastic for Australia… But are those coming in better than those going out?' he remarked.

Professor Hugo went on to reveal that whilst much progress has been made over the last two decades to redress the gender imbalance amongst Australia’s higher education workforce, similar progress is needed to encourage talented Australian early-career academics to remain both in the profession and in the country. In Australia, academics as a group rank amongst the eldest professionals, and these post-war baby boomers are beginning to retire possibly creating an academic vacuum.

The solution may already be taking form, as statistics reveal that 42% of academics in Australia were born overseas, with 3/5 of them hailing from predominantly non-English-speaking countries. Professor Hugo admitted that he was ‘worried’ about the impact this trend could have on the quality of higher education in origin countries, and ultimately on the future development of these countries.

'The brain drain does worry me. It worries me as an Australian that we are doing this and that there’s not the discourse in Australia about it.'

Over the last decade South and South-East Asia has lost thousands of its academics to Australian universities and, citing the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, Professor Hugo has called for more international collaboration through which development-friendly 'triple-win' scenarios are explored, thus providing benefits to destination countries, the individual academic, and origin countries alike. Calling for global North and South universities to come together to enable more inter-institutional joint appointments as a means of combatting the brain drain, Professor Hugo said that Commonwealth Universities could play a pivotal role.

'The Commonwealth has a role to play here. The special relationship which Commonwealth countries have is a basis for the development of effective migration policy. Commonwealth countries start with an enormous plus in that there are existing channels and ways through which they are able to cooperate and collaborate.

'I see the Commonwealth as being a world leader in these sorts of matters as it starts with a relationship'

The ACU Perspectives speaker series offers ACU members a chance to contribute to the debates and discussions on the future directions of higher education, to share their ideas and experiences, and to bring insights from their own region, institution or discipline.

The series theme is ‘Change and opportunity in higher education’ – a deliberately broad topic, allowing speakers to engage with the subject of their choice using local context and personal experience.

The next ACU Perspectives event will take place on 25 April 2013 when Professor Budd Hall, Professor of Community Development, University of Victoria, will deliver his talk titled: Knowledge democracy, transformation and higher education - elements of contestation.